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Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Roe-Thorsteindøttir Duo / Sunday, February 01, 2015
Elizabeth Joy Roe, piano; Sæunn Thorsteinsdøttir, cello

Cellist Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir

KNOTTY CELLO MUSIC THAT WAS (MOSTLY) EASY TO LOVE

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 01, 2015

Notable cello concerts have recently graced Sonoma County with Edward Arron’s Oakmont recital and Yo Yo Ma’s sterling solo outing in Weill. So it was not surprising that Sæunn Thorsteindóttir walked onto the Schroeder Hall stage Feb. 1 with pianist Elizabeth Roe and found a packed house of non-Superbowl fans.

In the first half contrasts abounded, beginning with the charming Beethoven Variations on “Bei Männern” from the Magic Flute and ending with the demanding Britten Sonata from 1961. The seven Beethoven variations served as an excellent warm up work, the balances good and the cellist using chaste vibrato and a secure and radiant bow style. Acoustics in the hall gave the instrument a pellucid sound, carrying easily to upper rows of seats.

The Britten is a tough work to love with sad, lyrical and restless sections combining in its five movements. Using the score as she did throughout the recital Ms. Thorsteindóttir played the long first movement with intensity, ending it with an extended tranquil fermata that was echoed by Ms. Roe’s gentile right hand tremolo. The aggressive pizzicato technique in the Scherzo was juxtaposed by demanding bursts from the piano, a question and answer dialogue that was compelling.

A plodding dirge characterized the following Elegia with bracing washes of sound and broad notes from the cello and hushed up-and-down octave jumps from the piano. The playing in the fourth movement caught the bouncy and banal nature of the music that turned at times to eerie and strident cello notes high on the fingerboard.

Skittish outbursts permeated the playing in the concluding finale and the tempos were fast but never out of control. The unison playing was faultless. The applause was substantial but not protracted.

Rachmaninoff’s early Sonata in G Minor, an easy piece to love, took up the entire second half and received a generous and grand reading. Ms. Thorsteindóttir doesn’t command a big outgoing sound, but she has a salutary tone quality and was ready to defer pride of place to her partner in many sections. The Rachmaninoff piece needs a pianist with a big technique and profile, and Ms. Roe was up to the task. As is well known with Rachmaninoff there are a lot of notes (difficult ones too) but if some are skipped or smudged the texture isn’t quite right. The pianist’s playing occasionally had this result and covered the cellist with extended use of the shift pedal and lavish employment of the damper pedal.

The second and third movement performances were highlights of the concert, especially in the provocative scherzo where the players were on fire with inspiration. The themes overflowed with passion. In the famous Largo Ms. Thorsteindóttir’s first entry following the lovely piano introduction was opulently colored and her conception throughout was subtle and restrained.

The playing of the weighty themes in the finale lacked clarity but was never wanting in momentum and potency. This music animated the audience of 250 and a standing ovation resulted.

Ms. Thorsteindóttir announced an encore, the short slow movement from the Chopin G Minor Sonata, Op. 65. Here the playing was captivating, each phrase integrated in a shapely and prismatic whole.